Pay Attorney’s Fees?

(WSVN) - Their association accused them of being late and missing maintenance payments. When the homeowner says they proved they had paid and it was a mistake, they got another bill from the attorney for the association who did the work on their case. Can the association make them pay that bill? It’s why South Florida has Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Patrick Fraser: “You couldn’t have gotten any closer.”

Doneith Fraser Salvant, battling property management: “I know, right.”

Doneith and Terry have only owned their home for three years, but she knows her neighborhood very well.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “It’s a good neighborhood. I actually grew up here.

Patrick Fraser: “No.”

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “I did. Literally across the street. I grew up in the house across the street.”

They didn’t plan on buying the house across from her parents. It just happened.

But when it comes to their finances, they do have a plan.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “I don’t like owing people money and I don’t like being late for anything.”

Which is why Doneith was so surprised at at letter she got from the association’s attorney saying she had not paid three months of maintenance fees back in 2016.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “I was shocked. I was like, ‘I pay every month.’ I have receipts, I have payments, I have stubs.”

After doing her research, Doneith created a detailed log of her payments, which she says proved she paid her fees and the property manager made a mistake.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “The mistake was the checks were being cashed, but they were not posted that I paid. It was posted to the wrong account.”

Doneith sent the proof to the management company and their attorney with notes showing which checks were cashed and never applied to her account.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “I thought that was the end of it.”

Only in your dream world, Doneith. She then got another letter from the association’s attorney.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “Saying, ‘Hey, you owe us $745 in lawyer’s fees.'”

Patrick Fraser: “So they want you to pay their lawyer for their mistake. Why do you owe their lawyer?”

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “That’s a good question.”

Doneith didn’t get her question answered and refused to pay the association’s lawyer for a mistake she believes the management company made, which produced another letter.

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “Saying, ‘Hey, you owe this. If you don’t pay by this day, we are gonna foreclose on your house,’ so forth and so on.”

Needless to say, Doneith is not happy

Doneith Fraser Salvant: “I am pissed off about it actually.”

Well Howard, associations have so much power. Can they force a resident to pay a bill for a mistake they believe their management company made?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Legally, this is common sense. You do not have to pay an attorney for the work they did on behalf of a management company who made an accounting mistake. Now the attorney can get paid, but the management company would have to write the check.”

I spoke to Mauri Peyton, the attorney who was hired by the management company.

He said he looked into Salvant’s problem and said, “Aside from the misapplied payments, Doneith did have some missed payments,” but he added, “She did catch up on her assessments.”

Doneith, of course, says she never missed payments and was never late with them.

Bottom line, Peyton told me it’s been resolved. Doneith and Terry don’t owe any attorney’s fees.

And then Peyton asked me to tell Howard to remind people why it’s important to pay your maintenance fees before some other bills.

Howard Finkelstein: “Because if you are late or don’t pay a credit card, you get hit with interest and penalties. But if you don’t pay association fees, they can slap a lien on your home and foreclose on you. So if have to chose who to send the check to, pay the association fees so you don’t lose your home.”

Terry Salvant: “They have corrected everything.”

The Salvants won and hopefully won’t have to battle their management company anymore.

Terry Salvant: “We had tried and nothing was getting done. And it seems like once Patrick got involved, it was taken care of.”

Glad it worked out. It’s a great reminder about the enormous power associations have, and why it’s important to keep the proof you paid your fees in case there is a problem.

Paying for a problem you didn’t create? Tired of being associated with it? Let us move in. We will treat you like a member of the family, and we will clean up after you.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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